Shahbaz using his private cars for official duty, reveals Punjab govt

ISLAMABAD: Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif has answered the first Right to Information (RTI) request leaving the requester surprised by replying that he uses his private vehicle for official business, pays fuel charges from his pocket and there is no protocol vehicle deputed for him.

However, he was hesitant to disclose the number of security vehicles deputed during the course of his movement citing ‘security reasons’.

Syed Kausar Abbas, an RTI activist, sent an information request asking three questions to CM Punjab. The requester sought details of the vehicles deputed for his protocol, security and certified copy of the log-book of each vehicle under CM’s use.

Application addressed to the chief secretary Punjab was filed on September 16 last year under Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Ordinance 2013 that was enforced before securing passage from Punjab Assembly. Although provincial government was bound to reply within 21 working days, the answer was dispatched on December 12, almost three months later.

Official position on the questions was interesting and informative alike. Responding to the query about the number of protocol vehicles deputed for CM Punjab, the official letter said there is no vehicle assigned for the purpose.

About the certified copy of the log-book of each official vehicle under CM Punjab’s use, reply is quiet revealing. It said that Shahbaz Sharif uses his private vehicle for official business and the petrol charges for that travel is afforded from his pocket hence there is no question of maintaining log-book that is done to keep accounting of official vehicles.

Answer to the last question asking the number of police/security vehicles deputed for Shahbaz Sharif’s movement has been side-stepped citing security reasons. “Due to security issues, it is not advisable to disclose this information.”

Background discussion with police officers indicates that questions have been smartly answered. Technically speaking, one officer said, there is no protocol vehicle deputed with CM Punjab.

They have been replaced with security convoy instead but Punjab government refused to provide details in this regard. Police officers say security is not compromised by revealing the number of vehicles deputed for the purpose. It is breached when security plan and routes are disclosed.

A report published in this newspaper in April last year revealed that 716 policemen were providing VVIP security Mian Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and family members by the time none of them was in the government.

According to the break-up of 761 policemen who continue to provide VVIP security to the Sharifs in Lahore at the expense of the taxpayers’ money, 317 belong to the Punjab Elite Force, 302 are from the Lahore Police Security Division, 108 personnel belong to the Punjab Constabulary while 34 others are from the Lahore District Police. Contrary to these details that were about the number of policemen, RTI request asked about the number of security vehicles that was refused to be answered.

As far as CM’s travel on private vehicle is concerned, it seems plausible as not only inside the country; he travels abroad at his own expenses. CM Shehbaz, his cabinet members and politicians accompanying him during foreign visits pay from their own pockets, revealed a detailed reply presented in the Punjab Assembly in 2012.

It is not the austerity practice recently introduced by Shahbaz Sharif as he also followed this policy during his last stint as Chief Minister, according to the officials who have worked with him.
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